Thursday, November 16, 2006

STATEMENT ON WESTHELP PARTNERSHIP

In recent days some people have expressed some concern about the way WestHELP funds have been treated in the town's budget. A number of people have expressed their views on this blog. I would like to address that question.
When we did the sublease it was agreed by everybody, including the entire Town Board, that grants would be made to the Valhalla School district, the Fairview Fire Department and the Mayfair Knollwood community. How this would be treated on the budget documents and accounted for is something we all left to the Town's Comptroller. None of us are accountants.
We were then told that the grant to the civic association was not legal and therefore we didn't pay it. But because the Town Board had unanimously approved an agreement and had approved a negotiated agreement commiting to help out the Mayfair-Knollwood neighborhood for supporting the 108 room homeless shelter, we decided to keep that money aside and looked for ways to honor our commitment to the community. For me it was simply a way to do what we all, the entire Town Board, had promised to do.
Now I am told that this was wrong. But two Comptrollers before Jim Heslop, and also Jim Heslop, handled it this way. I may be the chief financial officer of the town, but I don't maintain the books. This is done by a professional staff. I don't try to second-guess them. If it was the wrong way to do it, then it will be fixed. But no one can say that I did anything other than what the the entire Town Board agreed to do all along. The Town Board has looked at the budget in past years. The Town Board changes lots of things in the budget but they didn't change anything about the way the WestHelp money was treated.
As I have said often, I don't act alone and I am not a dictator. Everything that I know about this all the other members of the Town Board knew as well. If I made a mistake, the entire Town Board made a mistake. If I am accountable, the entire Town Board is accountable, as well as the Comptroller and the outside auditors who approved what had been done.
All payments and disbursements relating to WestHelp have been recorded, accounted for and audited annually. Only funds authorized by the Town Board in the form of resolutions, have been released to the Valhalla school district and Fairview Fire district. In addition to being audited by our independent auditors the Town provided the NY State Comptroller's office with all documents concerning WestHelp in the summer of 2004. We received a few telephone calls from the auditors in 2004 but heard nothing from them regarding our accounting of WestHelp funds in 2004 or in 2005. We received a draft report from the Comptroller's office regarding WestHelp this week and have not met with the Comptroller's office to discuss as of this writing.
I do not believe in closed government. Every aspect of the WestHelp partnership has been discussed publicly. All funds distributed have been approved at public meetings and citizens have had the opportunity to comment about the distribution of the WestHelp partnership at every meeting. There is no secrecy concerning WestHelp and the partnership.

80 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is clear that the intentions were good, even if the implementation should have been different. At least Paul has been open about it. It would be nice if the Town Board, the Comptroller and the outside accounting firm would be equally open.

Anonymous said...

Paul -

Thank you so much for your honesty and integrity.

It is hard to believe that all the other Town Board members have chosen to act without courage and true conviction. There were several members that in the past had acted with integrity.

The politics of ugly has run rampant in Greenburgh. I hope that one day, integrity in the context of the majority of the Town Board returns.

Anonymous said...

Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Eddie Mae Barnes voted for the WESTHELP partnership. They approved a contract with the school district. Instead of running away from the agreement they should keep their word to the community. We relied on their promise to the community.

Anonymous said...

Excellent statement! The Feiner haters won't get any traction on this issue. They will have to tear the hair out of their heads looking for something else to criticize Feiner with.

Anonymous said...

Either Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Eddie Mae Barnes suffer from severe case of amnesia or they have different (read: political) fish to fry. This is what happens when you have a large town of 90,000 people with a Town Board elected townwide. Not a single town board member is responsible for any area of the town and they know they get elected regardless how badly they perform their job. One party system doesn't work well anywhere.

Of course what happened between 2004 and now on the Town Board is Francis Sheehan. Clearly, he has a huge ambition to become the next Town Supervisor and in the process he is willing to tear down everything Paul has accomplished in the past. He is ably assisted by the do-nothing chorus of Bass, Barnes and Juettner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Paul. At least I clearly know what you did and why.

It’s a disgrace that the fab four members of the Board have spent the last weeks carefully wording their spin to make it appear that they were unaware of this arrangement. They can’t come right out and declare that they didn’t know about this because it’s on record that they all have the September, 2005 SCOBA report highlighting this accounting. Every one of them knew about this accounting and their recent statements are designed to mislead. I call that dishonest and it upsets me more than the unusual accounting.

They “told The Journal News they had no idea funds of that magnitude were available.” Read the careful wording - they knew the funds were there, they just didn’t know the magnitude.

In today’s press, the fab four “relied upon the town’s professionals, including its chief financial officer and its independent auditing firm, to conduct business in accordance with the law” and they “took major steps Tuesday to restore financial integrity to the town's budget”. What does that mean if not “I made a mistake and am now correcting it”? And oh by the way, I don’t need to pay four council people way more than a hundred grand to blindly accept the advice of three other people that I also pay.

I would love to see a clear statement from each of the four board members to the effect “I did not know anything about this arrangement” or “I agreed to this arrangement.” But I think that I will only continue get their political spin.

Even more than this, I would like to see a Board of five working together for the town. This war between the Town Board and Supervisor has got to end. The Board needs to stop playing politics or they will face the “thumping” that the voters gave other politicians recently. I think that the “thumping” will be directed against the fab four and not Paul. And I will thump that way.

Anonymous said...

More importantly, instead of pointing fingers, when do we get to see report, have it reviewed etc and get back years money back from Valhalla.

Anonymous said...

We should all work together so that the partnership and trust can continue.

Anonymous said...

Give the Valhalla school district the money that was promised to them by the entire Town Board. Keep your word, Town Council members.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feiner, you were, and are the only Town Board member whose reponsibilities were full time. You were, and are, under NY State law, the Chief Fiscal Officer of the Town. Your Board colleagues had the expectation that when you made a recommendation you had performed appropriate due diligence, because that is part of your job. It cannot be delegated, unless you are willing to have the rest of the Town Board join you as full-time paid employees of the Town. You need to accept the Truman premise that the buck stops at your desk, you are ultimately responsible. Over the years you have proudly claimed credit for every good thing which has happened in Greenburgh - the flip side of that is you must accept responsibility bad things which happen on your watch. Sadly your intentions are not an excuse for violating the law. If you don't agree with the law, you used to lead a campaign to change the law - now you simply ignore it. That arrogance is unseemly and discerdits much of the good you have struggled to accomplish. I sugggest you say you are sorry, resign quietly and devote your life to some private philanthropic endevor. You have violated the trust of the Greenburgh community, forfeited the respect of your fellow Board members, destroyed the hopes of a neighborhood, and divided the Town. With accomplishments like those under your belt, perhaps you really do have a career opportunity awaiting you in the NY State legislature.

Anonymous said...

The papers indicate that the controller spot may be opening up -- with your CFO expereince -- why not apply for that

A must read from sadly disappointed said...

Feiner should never have accepted political contributions from the town's outside auditor -- and the auditor should never have made them. Making political contributions to a town's chief financial officer compromises the auditor's duty of independence and creates the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the auditor must give money to Feiner to get the work and, in exchange, the auditor must not disclose or reveal anything that might tend to embarrass Feiner, or the auditing job will go to someone else. Now that the auditor has admitted to the Journal News that it knew the WestHelp money wasn't being properly accounted for -- but kept the matter quiet -- it sure looks like that's what might have happened.

And make no mistake, accepting any contribution that creates an appearance of impropriety, as this sure does, violates the Town's Ethics Code.

Having already been caught taking thousands of dollars from developers with applications pending before the Town -- also in violation of the Town's Ethics Code -- Feiner should have learned his lesson. But he obviously has not.

And one other thing: Feiner wants us to believe that this is just some political catfight between him and the town council, but it's not. Feiner's actions (along with those of the auditor) have compromised the integrity of the town's financial statements. This is financial mismanagement at its worst, and we as taxpayers will have to pay for Feiner's recklessness.

Instead of blaming everyone else, and accusing them of lacking integrity, he should accept responsiblity for what happened and apologize

Anon said...

As usual, the pack is finding ways to blame Feiner. Now it is that he has accepted contributions, as though every politician doesn't accept contributions.

And how will the taxpayers have to pay for this bad bookkeeping? They won't. There is not a penny missing. It is a question of proper accounting, not dishonesty or missing money.

Why is the pack so obsessed with Feiner that they have to invent all kinds of horror stories? Yes, Feiner failed to have the Comptroller do proper accounting for the Westhelp funds, but so did the Town Board, but the pack never says anything about them. So it will be fixed, and I hope that every one of them, Feiner and the four Town Board members, will be a lot more careful from now on. It would be easier for them to be more careful if they stopped turning every issue into an accusation against Feiner. he has plenty of faults, but I have come to the belief that compared to the four Town Board members he is quite good.

Scandal Watcher said...

So everyone is to blame but Mr. Feiner. Perhaps the butler did it? Or was it Mr. Mustard?

Feiner claims "All payments and disbursements relating to WestHelp have been recorded, accounted for and audited annually."

If so Mr. Feiner, please show us the accounting of every penny spent by the Valhalla School District that it received from Greenburgh under the WestHelp contract. That is probably impossible because the deal you negotiated failed to have an auditing provision. Of course, we now know the money was spent on luxury cruises, discount opera tickets, princeton review classes, and fully paid trips to places like Japan.

As the years go by, it is clear that you are a student of Karl Rove - deny everything - never admit to a mistake - play to your base.

My only surprise about you is that you didnt blame the homeless for the current scandal you are at the center of.

Anonymous said...

Not a penny is missing? Ha - millions of dollars of the Town's money was illegally diverted to the Valhalla School District and Feiner's slush fund. Perhaps you work for the Town's auditors?

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 12:26.

Are you capable of reading, or understanding? When I said no money is missing I was referring to the accounting.

As far as money given to the Valhalla School District, yes, that has been spent. But that was an open decision made by the entire Town Board at the behest of the County, and it is wide open. Nobody, even Feiner-haters, are attributing dishonesty to him on that, maybe because if they did they would have to attribute it also to the rest of the Board. It may have beeen unconstitutionsl, though several attorneys told the Board that it was OK.

I know that your hatred of Feiner has made you irrational, but at least try to make some sense, and stick to the subject.

Paul Feiner said...

There is no Feiner slush fund. No funds can be spent solely by the Town Supervisor. All funds spent must be authorized by the entire Town Board

Who are you kidding said...

A slush fund is a term generally used to describe money that is not properly accounted for and is being used for political payoffs. That sounds exactly like what we have here. According to the Journal News, this was $500,000 in money not properly accounted for at Feiner's request and intended to be used, by Feiner's own admission, as a political payoff for the Mayfair-Knollwood Civic Association. Or as the supervisor put it, to give him the "flexibility" down the road to "honor the commitment" he made to the civic association when he found out it was illegal to pay them the $100K per year he had promised them.

Feiner says this was all known and approved by the Town Board. No one should believe that for a minute. If it's true, let him produce the minutes and board resolutions to prove it. I bet they prove to be just as fictitious as we now know those "legal opinions" he claims to have had showing the Valhalla deal was legal.

Rather than take Feiner's word about any of this, let's wait and see what the state comptroller's office has to say.

Hard to believe said...

I'm not a Feiner fan, but when I read the rantings of the Feiner-haters, the crazy accusations that defy the facts, the mud-slinging, the made-up conspiracies, and so on, I wonder whether these people would have a life if Feiner weren't around. Who would they hate instead? There would have to be someone, or else they would have nothing to live for.

Anonymous said...

Supervisor Feiner is the most accessible and open public official around. He is probably the only elected official anywhere who would allow people to post anti Feiner hate e mails on his own blog site! He was not trying to hide any information about WESTHELP. He publicly disclosed what he was doing and keeps the community up to date on all things that happen in the town - good and bad. I wonder if the anti Feiner-ites spend every waking minute of their lives thinking about Feiner.

Sorry guys said...

But all this talk about criticism of Paul's handling of the WestHelp partnership isn't coming from any pack of Feiner-haters. It's coming mainly from stories and editorials appearing in the Journal News which, as far as I can remember, has always been one of Paul's biggest boosters. That tells me something very serious and troubling is going on here.

Anonymous said...

The WESTHELP partnership brought everyone together. Some of the anonymous bloggers want to bring us apart. The WESTHELP partnership is common sense governing - everyone benefits.

Anonymous said...

Even if all the grants from the Westhelp rent were legal, they would still have to be accounted for opensly and in accordance with proper accounting principles, not through undisclosed accounts.

Anonymous said...

The entire situation is a disgrace.

The Valhalla people are claiming only the Greenburgh/Mayfair people had control over the funds.

The Greenburgh people say they dont have control over the funds.

1. It appears to be illegal.

2. I dont know what Mr. Feiner means by having control over all funds -- if he means that the funds went to Valhalla, the Fire District or the homeowners association -- that does not mean control over funds.

3. It now seems that the funds went to no-show jobs, cruises etc. and no one seems to have control.

Anonymous said...

Every aspect of the Westhelp partnership has been discussed and disclosed publicly. 100% of the funds are and have been accounted for. All dollars from WESTHELP have been deposited. None of the money has been spent without a Town Board resolution authorizing the expenditure. There has been no secrecy involved.

Former Supporter said...

I write this to you Paul, and to your supporters (who may be you posting anonymously for all I know because whether it comes from "anonymous" or you, the words are always the same). You keep saying that all the WestHelp funds have been accounted for, etc. But I just read for myself the Town's 2005 financial statement, which is posted online on the Town's website. The WestHelp funds are nowhere accounted for, the figure for "rent" on page 67 doesn't report the $1.2 million coming in; there is no footnote explaining why it's not there; and there is no evidence anywhere else in the document of any of the WestHelp money being disbursed.

It's just as the Journal News said: Its all off the books. So who says it's all accounted for? The auditor? That doesn't work anymore. Those guys said in writing that the town's financial's statement was accurate, and it wasn't. Why should we or anyone from the state controller's office believe them? Their word is no good anymore.

Nor can we just take your word for it Paul. We're talking millions of dollars here. I see the town council is proposing the hiring of independent counsel to look into this mess. That's the responsible thing to do and you should get squarely behind that effort.

Paul Feiner said...

I support the hiring of independent CPA who can take a look at our entire budget document to make sure our financial reporting is in order. I take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that our bond rating has increased 3 times during my administration, and that we have been praised for our "prudent fiscal management." I believe that no aspect of the budget should be secret - and want to double check to make sure that all our accounting and book keeping meet and exceed state & accounting practice standards. Additional oversight is always a good idea.

That's not enough said...

You also need to get solidly behind the effort to hire independent counsel to oversee the entire project, including the selection and hiring of an independent outside auditor. When an auditor wrongly certifies a misstated financial statement, and then discovers its error, which is what happened here, auditors normally withdraw their opinion until new, corrected financial statements are drawn up. If that were to occur here, the ratings agencies may be compelled to pull the town's bond ratings at least until such time as the new financials are posted and certified. That would be a terrible blow to Greenburgh taxpayers and you'll be blamed for it.

All eyes will be on you Monday night. I'm sure officials from the state comptroller's office will be watching you too. Maybe also from Spitzer's office. I assume you've got nothing to hide here, so supporting the town council's effort to hire independent counsel should be in your interest too.

More said said...

As I read the news article, the town council didn't call for an independent counsel or independent auditor to review the situation regarding the financial statements. They asked the Comptroller to do it.

That is intended to lead to a,cover-up. The Town is asking its own employee to look into a situation which they, though warned a year ago, let happen.

We need an INDEPENDENT auditor to do it, not someone beholden to the town council.

Not what the agenda said...

Anon at 2:10 pm should read the town board agenda for Monday's meeting, which was posted Thursday night on the e-list. The agenda says the Town Council is "calling for a resolution authorizing the hiring of an independent outside counsel for the Town Council to ensure all town accounting, bank accounts and other funds are fully disclosed and properly reflect revenues, expenditurres, appropriations and grants received and dispersed." That's not authorizing a coverrup; it's the opposite, and assuming Paul's got nothing to hide, like he says, he ought to be supporting it.

Anonymous said...

I am a resident of Edgemont and a keen observer of the political world. I am 85 years old and don't have a very good opinion of most "politicians". But I must admit that I am a fierce supporter of Paul Feiner. He is unique - and treats his constituents as if they are his family. I have phoned him countless times close to midnight and have always been treated with the utmost respect. He is a breath of fresh air and a truly terrific friend to all residents of Greenburgh and it makes me mad as hell to think that there are people out there who try to malign him.

more said said...

I was looking at the news article, which said that the town council was asking the comptroller to do the investigation. I haven't seen the agenda for Monday. If it says what you say, then fine. Since the Supervisor has been the only member of the Town Board who has been frank about this, instead of doing the usual finger-pointing that has been typical of the town council, I am sure that Paul has no problem with it.

I think it is a mistake to keep pointing at Paul. He has much to answer for, but so do the others. None of them look good on this, and the town council should stop acting in such a sanctimoneous manner.

It's the law, stupid said...

The town council isn't being sanctimonious. Paul's the full-time elected guy here. The council members are part-timers. The Journal News says there's all kinds of wrongdoing with the WestHelp deal. They're talking about illegal grants of millions to Valhalla, yacht trips, opera tickets, cruises, trips to Japan, etc., plus an illegal grant of $100K to a civic association which Paul said he knew was illegal at the time and deliberately kept off the books so he could still honor the commitment he made. All this is on top of the town's accounting scandal.
But Paul isn't admitting he did anything wrong here. To the contrary, all he says is that "if" he made a mistake, then the entire town board is accountable, not just him.
C'mon, that's like OJ saying "If I did it..." Like OJ, maybe that's the best Paul can do, but his not being candid enough to admit responsibility puts the burden on the town council members, who he says are just as responsible, to make sure all the facts are laid on the table.
It's not about they're being sanctimonious. It's about the oath of office they all took to uphold the law.

It's the law, stupid said...

The town council isn't being sanctimonious. Paul's the full-time elected guy here. The council members are part-timers. The Journal News says there's all kinds of wrongdoing with the WestHelp deal. They're talking about illegal grants of millions to Valhalla, yacht trips, opera tickets, cruises, trips to Japan, etc., plus an illegal grant of $100K to a civic association which Paul said he knew was illegal at the time and deliberately kept off the books so he could still honor the commitment he made. All this is on top of the town's accounting scandal.
But Paul isn't admitting he did anything wrong here. To the contrary, all he says is that "if" he made a mistake, then the entire town board is accountable, not just him.
C'mon, that's like OJ saying "If I did it..." Like OJ, maybe that's the best Paul can do, but his not being candid enough to admit responsibility puts the burden on the town council members, who he says are just as responsible, to make sure all the facts are laid on the table.
It's not about they're being sanctimonious. It's about the oath of office they all took to uphold the law.

It's the law, stupid said...

The town council isn't being sanctimonious. Paul's the full-time elected guy here. The council members are part-timers. The Journal News says there's all kinds of wrongdoing with the WestHelp deal. They're talking about illegal grants of millions to Valhalla, yacht trips, opera tickets, cruises, trips to Japan, etc., plus an illegal grant of $100K to a civic association which Paul said he knew was illegal at the time and deliberately kept off the books so he could still honor the commitment he made. All this is on top of the town's accounting scandal.
But Paul isn't admitting he did anything wrong here. To the contrary, all he says is that "if" he made a mistake, then the entire town board is accountable, not just him.
C'mon, that's like OJ saying "If I did it..." Like OJ, maybe that's the best Paul can do, but his not being candid enough to admit responsibility puts the burden on the town council members, who he says are just as responsible, to make sure all the facts are laid on the table.
It's not about they're being sanctimonious. It's about the oath of office they all took to uphold the law.

Anonymous said...

When the investigation is done, is someone going to ask for all the money given to Valhalla in all the earlier years back

Anonymous said...

The entire Town Board is equally responsible for book keeping and accounting practices. The Board is responsible for approving a budget. They had the same information as Feiner had. I wish that Eddie Mae Barnes, Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Francis Sheehan would spend their time solving problems - not looking to blame others.

Anonymous said...

Three Town Comptrollers - Norah McAvoy, Ann Marie Berg and Jim Heslop -used the same bookkeeping/accounting practices. If the Town Board hires an independent counsel I think the counsel should call Norah McAvoy, Ann Marie Berg and Jim Heslop to testify as to the reasons for their actions. The comptroller is responsible for bookkeeping practices in the town. This could provide the Board with important information and a better appreciation of the reasons why actions were taken.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm naive, but isn't the CPA firm, Bennett Storch, supposed to be the independent watchdog of the Town's finances? Doesn't their opinion letter clearly state they have examined the Town's records and have conducted appropriate accounting tests. Based on the examination of the records and the results of the test, don't they then make the representation that the Town's records fair and accurately reflect the Town's financial condition in accordance with the standards set by the Govenmental Accounting Standards Board? Based on those representations, I think we, the taxpayers of Greenburgh, have been cheated by the accountants who haven't performed; the Town Controller who failed to provide the relevant materials to the accountants and apparently maintained two sets of records; the Supervisor who concocted the scheme; the Town Board members who failed to perform any meaningful oversight of any of the active participants in the fraud. I hold out little hope that an independent accounting firm will be able to do any more than substantiate what is already apparent to most observers. There were failures of process from the top to the bottom. Independent Accountants lack to ability to enforce the law and punish the transgressors. Should their report not fit the needs of the Council and/or the Supervisor, it will be ignored or dismissed as political. My recommendation is that the Westchester County DA's office open an immediate investigation. Failing an interest on the part of the County DA, our best hope may lie in the US Attorney for the Southern District of NY taking an active interest in government mis/mal feasance. The CPA firm's role in this should also be investigated by their professional disciplinary body as well. We deserve better than we've been getting from everyone involved in this mess, and if we fail to demand an uncompromising standard of ethical, legal behavior from our public officials we'll get exactly the government we deserve.

It's not criminal yet said...

This talk about the Town Board putting the current and former controllers under oath and making them testify about why the WestHelp funds weren't properly accounted for is a just another attempt by Paul to shift blame from himself to others. The town board doesn't have that legal authority to compel testimony and Paul knows it.
And sorry Feiner-bashers, so far (except for crimes of stupidity) there's been no reported evidence that he or the town council has together or separately committed any crimes punishable under the state or federal penal code -- so don't hold your breath waiting for the office of the Westchester DA or the US Attorney to do anything (at least for now).
But the Town Board has seen the state comptroller's report, at least in draft form and, without waiting for the report to be publicly released, the Town Council apparently thinks independent legal counsel is needed, and needed asap.
Let's let the investigation proceed and let the chips fall where they may.

Anonymous said...

The Town Board should stop pointing fingers at Feiner. They voted for the WESTHELP agreement just like Feiner did. They saw the financial reports. Just like Feiner did. This agreement is not something that anyone should be ashamed of. In fact, it was and is a good concept. The WESTHELP partnership made it easier for the community to accept homeless housing in their neighborhood.

Herbert Rosenberg said...

I read with interest the comments by a number of people accusing Paul Feiner of cooking the books. The Town Board, with the help of its vocal claque, is acting as though this is something that comes to them out of left field.

Well, the SCOBA Report issued on September 20, 2005 informs the Town Board of this undisclosed account. Furthermore, on December 21, 2005 I sent an email to the entire Town Board telling them directly. I append a portion of that 12/21/05 email below. Note especially my advice that they take my comments seriously because otherwise they would hear about this in the future. If the Board only listened, but this Town Board doesn't listen to anoyone not in their claque -- and of course they never responded. They should now step up and assume responsibility -- not sole responsibility, but for a change assume proper responsibility. Here is my 12/21/05 letter:

* * *

"Members of the Town Board:

This evening I watched the telecast of the December 19 Town Board meeting. Although there are a number of things that merit questions and comments, I will limit my comments to three items which involve purely legal issues. I do so because -- and I know that the Board doesn’t like to hear this -- the Town Board members are frequently dismissive or cavalier about legal requirements. But just as we, especially Democrats, remind President Bush that he does not have the option of ignoring the law, that same requirement applies to you, as Town Board members. This is especially so given the current town-village conflicts. I caution you to take these comments about legal requirements seriously, because unless you do you will surely hear more about them in the future.

These are the three comments.

1. I was quite stunned to hear Bob Bernstein say that there was an item in the SCOBA Report with which he agreed (if he reread the SCOBA Report he would surely find more). He was referring to the $650,000 annual grant to the Valhalla School District. He may be equally stunned to hear that I agree with his characterization of it as a gift. I have read the underlying documentation of that transaction, and it spells out the purpose of that gift as enabling the Valhalla School District to provide special services to the children from WestHELP. I understand that there is only one child from WestHELP in the Valhalla School District, but even if there were two or three or four, the $650,000 is surely not being spent on special services for that child (or those few children). It is a political gift.

But disproportionate as that gift is, what is relevant is that it is an illegal gift. The New York State Constitution prohibits gifts of public money, with the exception of gifts or grants that benefit the entire community (I will not comment on the procedural deficiencies here). That $650,000 gift provides no benefit to the entire town. Bob Bernstein is entirely correct on that point. It is part of the approximately $1,250,000 rent paid by the county under a sublease, and it is town revenue. Moreover (as you will see if you study the SCOBA Report) it is properly a town-wide revenue. I understand that a letter has been sent to the State Comptroller asking for an opinion on that point, but prior Comptroller opinions make that clear.

In that connection, you should be aware that the $100,000 that was to be a “political” gift to a civic association, until the Town Board was advised that such a gift would be illegal, is sitting in an unidentified account. That is also town-wide revenue. It is illegal to allocate those funds to additional police protection (assuming that this is a true description of the proposal). The rental revenue is legally required to be an “A” budget revenue. Police protection is legally required to be a “B” budget expense. The Town Board has no discretion in this matter."

* * *

SCOBA was misinformed that the grant to the school district was for children from WestHELP, but that error doesn't affect the legalities of the situation, or the fact that the funds for the civic association was being held in an unidentified account. The Board should not now be acting with surprise at the information. They should have acted last December, if not before.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Rosenberg,

The SCOBA report is meaningles. You made it worhtless. The report stated that the parks were open only to the town outside residents; that is not he truth, the village residents have access. YOu knew that or should have known that. Your bias is evident throughout the report.

Anonymous said...

to HR,

No one relied on the SCOBA report -- it was not a fair report. It was a report that came up with some ratinale or another that every expense should be charged to the town outside the villages.

Herb -- it was you fault no one took that report seriously. It was biased.

Paul -- it was you fault for not appointing any of the established unincorporated civic leaders to the committee.

The report may have some valid points, but it was a document by, for and of the villages. But of course, they have the majority of the votes in the town. The others have to rely on the courts.

Herb Rosenberg said...

To the last two bloggers -- you make the evangelical right seem almost open-minded. As someone once said, if you don't want to listen, nothing can stop you.

If you actualy read what I said, and thought about it, you will note that I said that the SCOBA Report informed the Board about the improper bookkeeping, and my 12/21/05 email did the same. If you want to turn everything into a question about the parks it just demonstrates the blindness and irrationality with you approach serious issues.

With folks like you, no wonder that this once-peaceful and neighborly town has become such a nasty place.

Anonymous said...

Herb,

I did read what you said, and I did read the SCOBA report. I notice you do not disagree with my thourghts as to the report being biased, you just comment that things should be the way they used to be. Well, the unincorporated greenburgh is tired of being taken advantage. Any when you produce a biased report, that is weighted toward the villages, you can not except people to wade through the erros to find the points you are trying to make. You had an opportunity to produce an unbiased report -- and took a pass.

Anonymous said...

The SCOBA committee included leaders who reside in both unincorporated Greenburgh and the villages. The anonymous blogger is spreading false information.

Anonymous said...

The SCOBA committee included Feiners handpicked representatives of the unincorproated area. He would not allow any of our civic leaders.

Herb Rosenberg said...

You say that the SCOBA Report is biased because you don't like what it says and you don't want to acknowledge facts.

SCOBA had sixteen members, nine from the unincorporated area and seven from the villages. The three subcommittee chairs I appointed were all from the unincorporated area. So much for my "bias". The facts are what they are, even if you don't like them. There is no pro-village bias at all. As a wiser person once said, "you can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own facts."

The fact is that the statutes require that all expenses of a town must be charged town-wide unless there is a statute that requires or permits the expenses to be charged to the unincorporated area. Because of that the villages pay for millions of dollars for things that provide no, or practically no, services to the villages because the villages provide them for their eresidents -- such as the Supervisor and the Town Board (you can keep them!),the Comptroller, the Town Attorney, the Town Court, the data processing syatem, and I can go on. Tnose are facts, not bias. I recognize that the law is what it is, and so does the SCOBA Report.

You make a fight over the parks. But it isn't a proper fight. There is a statute, known as the Finneran Law, which says what it says, and that is that because the villages pay for their parks, they should not pay for town parks. It also says that the town must restrict the parks to residents of the unincorporated area. The town has violated that restriction,by lifting that restriction illegally. It is likely that very few village residents ever go into town parks. I suspect that the only living things that habituate Taxter Ridge are deer and birds. Bernstein has seized on the town's violation of law to try to get rid of that law. The erroneous Taxter Ridge ruling is on appeal and there is no ruling with respect to the other town parks. You and others like you keep saying that the law requires that the parks be charged to the town entire budget. That is the reverse of what the law says. Read the law, for heaven's sake, and don't buy the twist that Bernstein is trying to put on the law's plain words. Or is it more fun to keep repeating the same nonsense?

You all think that it is just dandy that the statutes impose the cost of many town services on the villages, but you get angry when there is a statute that does not. And you call me biased? And the other 15 SCOBA members, who unanimously adopted the SCOBA Report -- are they also biased?

One blogger said that the SCOBA Report is meaningless because it says that most Town parks are restricted to unincorporated area residents. Well,that was what we were told by the Parks Department, but the fact that we were not told that the town is violating the Finneran Law with respect to the handful of Town parks which invite non-residents (who have to pay more, by the way)doesn't change the overall findings of the Report, or the legal underpinnings for the budget which we have reported. There is another error, by the way -- and I hope that you don't sqeal in delight over this news. Regarding the Valhalla school grant, we said that the money was for programs for the WestHelp children, when it is for all the children -- again an incorrect bit of information we were given. But it changes nothing about the facts or the legalities of the situation. As I said, the facts are what they are.

The SCOBA Report is an invaluable document regarding village/town issues for those who are serious about dealing with the problems. For those, like you, who speak with certainty about things that you don't know or understand, of course the SCOBA Report is an easy thing to trash.

You, and others in the unicorporated area, have been lied to again and again. The whole town suffers from these lies.

Anonymous said...

Feiner allegedly wanted "unbaised" people on the SCOBA committe.

In reality, the included the leading Village representatives, such as Mr. Rosenberg, but none of the leading unincorpoated leades, such as McNally, Bernstein, or others from ECC or from the homeowners associatiosn. Feiner said those people would be biased.

Anonymous said...

Herb,

Why does Bernstien keep winning in court if he is the lying, not you??

Herb Rosenberg said...

To anonymous.

Bernstein won on Taxter Ridge and I won't try to explain why that happened except to say that the last word isn't in -- the Appellate Division has that appeal now.

Taxter Ridge is unique, because it isn't owned by the town. The town is only a one-third joint owner.

As to all the other parks and recreational facilities (which are owned exclusively by the town), Bernstein hasn't won. In his new lawsuit over these parks, the judge denied the village residents motion to intervene, which is not substantive. But in any event, the Appellate Division, over Bernstein's objection, ordered a stay of that lawsuit so that the judge in that case cannot go further until the Appellate Division decides on the rights of the village residents. I think that the Appellate Division judges understand the issues.

Rosenberg is Wrong said...

I've spoken to Bernstein and he says Rosenberg is wrong in reporting that the Appellate Division ordered a stay of Bernstein II over Bernstein's objection. He said all that's in place right now is a temporary stay ordered by one judge on the court, pending a determination of the village's motion by a four-judge panel. Bernstein says that a ruling on the motion could come any day now, that rulings are usually posted online, and that, as far as he knows, no ruling has been issued. Bernstein also said that he was given only a few hours advance warning that the villages would seek a temporary stay, and that while the judge who granted the stay did so over his objection, he did so because he wanted Bernstein to be given an opportunity to put his objections in writing and because he also wanted the matter be decided by all four judges. Bernstein also says that, contrary to what Rosenberg says, Finneran applies only to parks that the state legislature found in 1982 were both restricted in use to unincorporated residents and inadequate to support use by village residents and that it does not apply to parks that are not restricted in use and can support use by village residents. He says there's nothing in Finneran or its legislative history to bar the town board from exercising its authority under state law to have its parks, whether wholly owned or partly owned, open townwide (so long as they are adequate to support town-wide use), and to charge the costs townwide and that to charge them only to unincorporated residents, as is currently the case, is and continues to be, wrong and contrary to law.

Herb Rosenberg said...

Oh well, there is no point arguing with Bernstein's view of his world. I happen to have a copy of the Appellate's Division ruling on the stay, which extended the stay signed by the one judge and ordered that briefs be filed by December 15 (they were filed last Friday). I'm quire sure that the Appellate Division sent the order to Bernstein, just as they sent it to the mayors' lawyers. But if he wants to say there is no ruling, let it be. As far as the Finneran law is concerned, we'll just have to wait until the court decides. I'm sure not going to waste time arguing law with Bernstein in cyberspace.

By the way, why don't you identify yourself?

Anonymous said...

Who cares what Bernstein thinks or says? He doesn't represent me. He seems to be a legend in his own mind. The WESTHELP agreement is the kind of innovative approach government and affordable housing developers should take if they truly want to solve our affordable housing/homeless crisis. Why haven't low income homes been built in recent years? The reason:community opposition. The WESTHELP partnership was the one program that existed that helped eliminate community opposition to housing for the homeless.

Anonymous said...

I have read everything on the www.valhallavoice.com website about the Westhelp partnership. I don't see the "trip to Japan" anywhere and I would think if there was one, that guy would have it. Trips to the Grand Canyon, summer camps at Yale, Princeton tests, Hudson River Cruises, and the opera.

Where did a trip to Japan come from?

Anonymous said...

The Town Council approved a legally binding agreement with the Valhalla School district -unanimously. They cannot break their promise. Otherwise, there will be litigation between the school district and town. Steve, Eddie Mae, Diana -- do the right thing. You gave us your word.

Greenburgh Taxpayer said...

And who are you to say it was legally binding? Is that what Hevesis office is saying?

YOu are correct that there will be litigation. It will be the Town of Greenburgh wanting all the back years money returned.

Greenburgh resident said...

You say that the Valhalla arrangement is a legally binding contract. It isn't a contract at all. It is a grant. It is a gift. A contract requires consideration -- i.e., the giving up of something in return that you were not otherwise required to give up. Mayfair-Knollwood gave no consideration. The "acceptance" of the homeless shelter is no consideration because Mayfair-Knollwood had no power or right to stop the homeless shelter. So no contract, only a gift.

I don't blame the Mayfair people for being disappointed, But everybody has to learn that nobody is entitled to a payoff for just being proper citizens.

That trip to Japan said...

I heard that a son of one of the Mayfair Knollwood civic association officers got the all-expense paid trip to Japan courtesy of Greenburgh. I heard that at one of those Town Board Tuesday "work sessions" last month he actually thanked the board for giving Valhalla the money that allowed him to go, and that, with his parents present, he asked the Town Board to release another $650,000 so that more kids there could do what he did. Someone should ask the Town Board members if they heard the same thing.

Anonymous said...

This is outrageous. How can Feiner say the funds were fully accounted for??? Who approved this??

Anonymous said...

I certainly hopes someone addresses this tonight --

was there a japan trip? who was on it?

Anonymous said...

I want the Town Board to keep the promises they made to residents of Mayfair Knollwood before our neighborhood agreed to allow the homeless facility to stay open. Some of the Town Council members were in our living rooms. They promised us that if we supported the continued operation of WESTHELP that they would approve the funding to the school district. Steve Bass, Eddie Mae Barnes, Diana Juettner: You made a promise. We relied on your word. If you didn't like the agreement you should not have voted for the agreement a few years back. No one forced you to vote for the agreement. You made the decision on your own. It's sad that we have elected officials who look you in the eye and smile and then stab you in the back.

Anonymous said...

Westchester County Police Crime Analysis Unit: Sex Offender Information (this is the new shelter placed within walking distance of our community) and within walking distance of WESTHELP:
CRIME
They are all sex offenders:
victim 9 years..sexual abuse 1st degree
Victim: 15 years. Sodomy 1st
Felony: 3 year old victim. Sexual Abuse I
Felony: 14 year old victim rape, 2nd degree
Felony 14 year old victim; Rape
Misd 15 year old victim; sex abuse
Felony: 2 year old victim; attempted kidnapping
Felony: 8 year old victim Forcible compulsion
Felony 17 year old victim: sexual abuse
Why shouldn't the town & county provide residents who live near these facilities with a dividend? We are good neighbors.

Anonymous said...

The Mayfair people are asking for more than is fair.

Last night, one of the Mayfair people went on about the cost of educating students from the shelter. Well, do they think we dont know that the state, through the McKinney law, provides 20K per year for average children, more for special needs.

They come up with one excuse after another.

Anonymous said...

The new shelter is not even in Greenburgh.

Anonymous said...

The shelter may not be in Greenburgh but if the number of occupied beds exceeds preset amounts, Greenburgh gets $1,000 per homeless person per day for each body over the limit. Here is what is on www.valhallavoice.com says about the sublease that generates the $1.2 million in rent to the town.

"There too, you will see agreements to pay the the Town of Greenburgh $1,000 per homeless person per day if homeless occupancy of nearby shelters (not even in the Town of Greenburgh) should exceed cap levels of 149 at the Grasslands shelter and exceeding 271 units at the combined shelters of Westhab, WestHELP, Vaughn Glanton and the Valhalla Residence and future shelters that may be open within a radius described as a two (2) mile radius from the Center of the Grasslands Reservation, plus the Valhalla School District to the northeast, and an area along 119 to the southeast up to and including Old Kensico Road. Greenburgh has truly cornered the market on the Homeless. The center of this radius is Grasslands, in Mt. Pleasant, in the Pocantico School District, not even in Greenburgh.

$1,000 per homeless person per day, a social dividend and then some. Ten excess homeless residents, for 30 days would generate $300,000 to the town. A social dividend? More like a misery mutual fund."

The sublease can be found on valhallavoice.com read it for yourself

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why the school district or the homeowners association need any extra money becasue of the shelters. If extra police or extra sanitation pickups are necessitated, that is the town's cost. Only Westhab could potentially sent students to the school, and at last count they sent 13, WHICH THE STATE PAYS TUITION FOR.

If homeowners are concerned about safety, let's increase police patrols, use police on cross walks during times children go back and forth to school. Of course we should do what we have to insure children's safety.

But we dont have to send them to Japan.

Anonymous said...

None of the Westhelp money ever went to a homeless child or their education. No homeless child went to Japan or to the opera or on a cruise, as far as I know.

Anonymous said...

I think we all know that no homeless child went to Japan, I think that earlier comment was sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

Supervisor Feiner, the Valhalla school district, the entire Town Board, HELP USA, the Mayfair Knollwood civic association developed a great concept that turned NIMBY (not in my backyard) to YIMBY (yes in my back yard). This out of the box solution to the affordable housing issue could solve our housing crisis.

Anonymous said...

They turned NIMBY into YIMBY by bribing the Mayfair-Knollwood residents. Not a good way to make policy.

Anonymous said...

It's true that Feiner, Bass, Barnes, Juettner persuaded the Mayfair Knollwood civic association by providing them with financial incentives. Can you think of any other neighborhood in Greenburgh or Westchester that has voluntarily welcomed the homeless in their back yard?

Anonymous said...

I don't know how "voluntary" the welcome was when it was in response to a bribe. I have nothing against the residents of Mayfair-Knollwood, but we all have responsibilities, and having a homeless shelter is one of them.

Now those residents are complaining about the sex-offenders near their homes. Westhelp has nothing to do with that, and those sex offenders are in Mt. Pleasant. Are Greenburgh rersidents supposed to pay off the Mayfair-Knollwood residents because the county has placed an institution for sex offenders in Mt. Pleasant?

Life isn't always fair.

Anonymous said...

Dear Having a Homeless Shelter is a responsibility:
Why don't you identify yourself? The county is looking for possible locations? Good, decent people like you are hard to find? The County Exec will love you!

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is when did payoffs, gifts and bribes using taxpayer money become acceptable?

I live in Mt. Pleasant. We have the County Jail, the County Hospital, homeless shelters and many cemeteries (that pay no tax). Where is my social dividend and what is the logic in the $1,000 per homeless person per night that Greenburgh receives if there are extra homeless in Mt Pleasant shelters?

Anonymous said...

Life isn't always fair as anonymous said. However - public officials have to figure out ways to solve problems. The WESTHELP partnership is a creative approach that got results for everyone and helped solve a problem.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be at least one or more salients point missing from the discussions of WESTHELP:
- The failure to properly account for the rental income is a material, substantial breach of trust. (If anyone signed an affidavit swearing that all the records had been made available to the auditors there may also be a criminal violation - swearing a false document is such a violation)
- It is illegal for a tax-based government or its proxy to make a gift of taxpayer funds to a private recipient. (A civic association, say Mayfair/Knollwood is a private recipient)
- An illegal action cannot be compelled by contract. (A gift of taxpayer funds may not be given to the Valhalla School District, the Mayfair/Knollwood Civic Association or the Fairview Fire District. The purpose of the gift is completely irrelevant - the giving of the gift is the illegal act. No contract, however sanctified by age or previous action, can compel it.)
- Finally, while there may not be any money missing, the numbers as reported do not add up. From the $1.2 million, subtract the $650,000 for Valhalla, the $100,000 for the Fire District, leaving $450,000 of which $372,000 went into the Town Budget. The remainder $78,000 is less than the amount promised to Mayfair/Knollwood by $22,000 - Does that mean there was never any intention to make the payment to the Civic Association - or perhaps it was the Fire District which was to be shortchanged? Or that there is yet another unreported income stream? Then there is the question of whether the money was in an interest-bearing account and what might have happened to those earnings...
Life isn't fair and even-handed.
If all concerned believe the Valhalla Schools, and or the Mayfair/Knollwood Civic Association, and/or the Fairview Fire District should receive funds, call on Richard Brodsky and Andrea Stewart-Cousins to introduce legislation in Albany to properly fund those entities.
Similarly, the aggrieved villages in the A/B budget debate could push for legislation clarifying and correcting the Finneran Law - unless the are afraid that the result of Finneran, a pattern of racial discrimination carried over from the 19th century, would be so distasteful, or perhaps even illegal under Federal law, as to make it impossible to contemptemplate at the beginning of the 21st century.
Our Town, its residents AND its leaders, must support the law as it is written. If the law doesn't support the result you desire, change the law - don't rely on an elected politican to interpret it because the next guy or gal elected may not see it the way you do.

Anonymous said...

All excellent points, illegal contracts are not binding and accounting must be done on a gross basis so that the public can see the full picture of money collected and spent.

The other thing that does not seem to add up, as another posting said, is the fact that there have been five rental payments and Valhalla seems to only have three grants. That would be $1.3 million missing or maybe Valhalla got that "pre-grant" Unfortunately Valhalla does not account for what it spends either to Greenburgh or apparently to its own taxpayers.

Does anyone know if Valhalla has received five years of grants?

Anonymous said...

In surfing around the Feiner blogs I find that two end with the very same unanswered question regarding whether Valhalla has received three or five $650,000 payments. There are obviously very many, very well informed insiders that know every facet of this deal, who post on these blogs. I find it odd that the question has not been answered on either blog. Also, has anyone ever seen the paperwork (signature cards and town resolutions) used to open the bank account where the $500,000 was hidden?